Ahoskie parks fall under fire

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 22, 2008

AHOSKIE – For a small town with limited resources, Ahoskie is able to provide five neighborhood parks for its citizens and visitors to enjoy.

But how well are those parks maintained by the town? One group commends the town for providing such facilities, but in the same breath questions the effort by the town to keep the parks in tip-top condition.

Carl White, President of the Hertford County Chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), recently took the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on a tour of five Ahoskie-based parks. There, speaking on behalf of the local NAACP Chapter, he noted deficiencies in the upkeep of those parks.

“The town put a lot of effort in establishing these parks and they are very much needed in those neighborhoods,” White said. “There are many, many families who do not have the means to take their children to other parks, so having these parks close to their homes is important.”

The tour included stops at Freddy Hall Park (at the intersection of Catherine Creek and Hayes Street), Julius W. Futrell Memorial Park (Richard Street) and H.D. Cooper Memorial Park (Snipes Street), all owned and maintained by the town. Two others were also surveyed for problems n a park on Parker Ave. and a playground at the former R.L. Vann School on Holloman Ave. However, after checking, those areas were respectively owned and maintained by the Ahoskie Housing Authority and the County of Hertford.

While he thanked town officials for finding a way to establish this system of parks, he questioned what he noted as an apparent lack of maintenance.

“Our (NAACP) concern is that these neighborhood parks are not maintained very well,” White noted. “We see safety concerns and health concerns.”

During the tour, White pointed out that some of the equipment needs to be replaced or repaired. He noted in several cases where holes in the ground have come underneath some of the swings. There are other cases where the swings are missing all together.

In isolated cases there were unleveled picnic tables and charcoal grills with the bottoms missing.

“That prevents families from getting together and enjoying a cookout in the park,” said White, referencing the grills and slanted tables.

Another major concern to White was the grass not being cut underneath the playground equipment.

“That could lead to a rodent problem, which is a health problem,” White said. “There are other areas in these parks where limbs and other debris are very close to the equipment where the children play. Those areas could contain rodents or, even worse, snakes.”

White implored town officials to address these problems.

“We hope the town will take better care of these parks so that children and adults will have a safe, healthy place to enjoy.”

On Ahoskie’s behalf, Town Manager Tony Hammond said he thanked White for his concerns.

“We receive calls everyday addressing a wide range of concerns here in Ahoskie, from drainage problems to trash collection and everything in-between,” Hammond said. “We do not ignore those calls. We dispatch town workers, sometimes myself included, to look at those concerns and see what solutions we can devise within reason.”

Hammond said the town’s Recreation Department and Public Works handles the maintenance of the parks.

“We are providing maintenance to all our parks on a weekly basis,” Hammond noted. “The grass is cut during the season and repairs are made on the equipment. What we can’t control is vandalism. There have been cases where just as soon as we make a repair, someone will shortly thereafter vandalize a park, putting us right back where we were.”

Hammond did immediately address one of White’s concerns by saying, “We will look at spraying underneath (park) equipment to control the grass.”

He also addressed the Cooper Park on Snipes Street, saying the town had been approved for CDBG (Community Development Black Grant) funds.

“That project features the rehabilitation or replacement of 13 homes on Snipes Street,” Hammond noted. “Part of that project also includes approximately $90,000 for renovations at the Cooper Memorial Park. It’s not feasible nor would it be a wise use of taxpayer’s money for the town to put money into renovating the park on Snipes Street in light of the CDBG funds coming our way.”

Hammond said he expects the Snipes Street project, including the park renovations, to begin within the next 60-to-90 days.

The Town of Ahoskie also owns and maintains two other parks, both adjacent to the Recreation Center on West Main Street.

Additionally, the Ahoskie Town Council recently approved a $1.1 million loan that will be combined with a $500,000 state grant to construct a multipurpose complex at the newly named Ahoskie Creek Recreational Complex (the old FEMA buyout area). That complex will be the home of softball fields, multi-purpose football/soccer fields, playgrounds and picnic shelters. Construction is already underway on the Ahoskie Amphitheater at the same location.